Smart city: riding IoT boom, Ingdan.com sets up US$50 million fund for start-ups in Hong Kong to boost hardware ecosystem

Pundits predict company, owned by e-commerce platform Cogobuy Group, will focus more on teams and projects at local universities

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 16 March, 2016, 3:21pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 16 March, 2016, 3:37pm

Ingdan.com, operator of China’s largest online supply chain platform for internet-of-things devices, plans to create a US$50 million fund this month to invest in hardware start-ups in Hong Kong.

The fund will focus on young companies developing hardware for smart devices or related technologies. Software companies and those that make other consumer devices will not be considered, according to Shenzhen-based Ingdan.

It said that only start-ups registered in the city will be eligible to apply for the fund, but founders and employees can come from anywhere in the world.

READ MORE: Boom in Internet of Things devices draws more hardware start-ups to Hong Kong as connected gadgets take off

“We think there are too few hardware start-ups in Hong Kong and we hope to change that through our funding,” the spokesperson said.

“The problem for us is not the lack of money but the lack of good companies and teams to invest in.”

There are 497 start-ups listed on startbase.hk, an online database. Among those, only 22 focus on hardware.

Ingdan currently supports a number of hardware projects on the Chinese mainland, including a smart face mask that automatically disperses the heat and moisture that gets trapped between the mask and the wearer’s face, and a smart mat for babies that detects their position and monitors their breathing.

In Hong Kong, the first initiative under the fund will see Ingdan team up with Professor Wu Jingshen from Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, who heads the Advanced Engineering Materials Facility there.

READ MORE: Free showroom for Hong Kong-based start-ups - China’s Ingdan launching new exhibition centre at Cyberport

Ingdan said the terms of the collaboration have not been finalised but may include funding Wu’s start-up and sharing his technology with other companies Ingdan has partnered with.

The company is looking for more projects and teams from universities in Hong Kong to invest in. A portion of the fund will be used to support Hong Kong students and graduates who want to study, intern or find job placements in mainland China.

“Start-ups in Hong Kong ... tend to require higher initial investment and longer development time than software start-ups,” said Alex Ng, an analyst from China Merchant Securities (HK).

“I believe Ingdan will focus more on teams and projects in universities rather than existing companies in this field.”

Founded in 2013, Ingdan aims to facilitate hardware start-ups with supply chain resources and connect them with investors. It is owned by Hong Kong-listed Cogobuy Group, a leading e-commerce platform for electronic components.

Ingdan will join hands with several bodies on the mainland that are involved in Hong Kong’s start-up scene.

READ MORE: Shenzhen-based Ingdan.com provides hardware support to South Korean tech start-ups

Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba Group launched a US$130 million Hong Kong Entrepreneurs Fund last November to support new businesses in the city, while Beijing-backed Hong Kong International Entrepreneurs Festival (HKIEF) drew investments worth over 200 million yuan (US$30.66 billion) for local start-ups last year.

Tus Holdings, which operates Tsinghua University Science Park (Tuspark) in Beijing, has launched four coworking offices in Hong Kong since February 2015 to provide cheap office space for start-ups and professionals.